Media Circus: Behind the scenes of NFL draft television coverage
Inside ESPN’s NFL draft production truck in Chicago’s Grant Park on Thursday night, sitting about 10 feet from Seth Markman, the executive in charge of ESPN’s draft coverage, and Greg Jewell, who produces Adam Schefter and Suzy Kolber during the draft, ESPN NFL news editor Jim Carr came across what he called “the most bizarre story” he’s ever dealt in his 25 years of working the NFL draft.
The time was 8 p.m. ET on Thursday and ESPN’s draft coverage was about to commence. That’s when Carr, who put in 13 years working in the public relations departments of the Chicago Bears and Kansas City Chiefs before 12 years as a news editor at ESPN (his assignments include Monday Night Football and the NFL draft), discovered a video on Twitter that allegedly featured a highly touted NFL prospect wearing a gas mask and smoking from a bong. By now you know the player—former Ole Miss offensive tackle and new Miami Dolphins lineman Laremy Tunsil.
Here’s how that scene played out inside ESPN’s production truck:
Carr said he first saw the tweet around 7 p.m. CT, shortly after ESPN’s opener for the draft broadcast. He then checked Tunsil’s Twitter page, but whatever might have been there had already been deleted. Carr then alerted the news desk at ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Conn., as to what he had seen, almost simultaneously as ESPN reporters and social media staffers from around the country were emailing ESPN news editors the photo and video.
“After watching the video a few times, I started a dialogue with the news editors back in Bristol to find out what they knew and let them know I would investigate on my end in Chicago,” Carr said. “I then made Seth and Greg aware of what had appeared on Tunsil’s verified account and that we should see what we can find out because this was about to really blow up. I let Adam and Suzy know what was happening and emailed them the link. Adam starting checking with his sources.”
Kolber soon went to the green room to check with Tunsil and his representation. Schefter checked with his sources and the crew was also getting feedback via texts from Chris Mortensen, who is battling cancer but was monitoring the broadcast from Houston’s M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. “He’s the guy we lean on with these kind of stories, with questions such as what do you know and do you think we should we go with it,” Markman said of Mortensen. “We all trust his judgment on things like that.”
As reporting on the ground was happening, ESPN’s graphics producers grabbed an image from the gas mask-bong shot.
“We all wanted to be certain that it was his account and that it was him in the video to the best of our knowledge,” Markman said. “There are a lot of steps you want to go through before you put any video or image in front of seven million people. We just did not want to rush it. We had to be comfortable.”
The production truck waited for the news operation in Bristol to clear them to go ahead with the story on the air. From the truck, Markman talked to Kolber and Schefter before they went on the air because, ultimately, they would be the public faces of the story for ESPN.
“I think it ended up taking about 45 minutes from the time I first became aware of the tweet until our first report,” Carr said. “It was a tricky situation and important to not rush to air without getting as much information as possible, especially from Tunsil’s camp. We didn’t want to go with the report until we reached out to Tunsil or his reps. Suzy reported back that Tunsil had referred her to his agent, Jimmy Sexton, who told her 'somebody hacked into his account.' They did not deny it was him in the video, but at this point we could not be 100% sure it was him. They didn’t say who might have been responsible for hacking the account. After conferring with Seth, we decided to go with the report with Adam giving the details and Suzy following up on what Tunsil’s agent said.”
ESPN addressed the story on-air 55 minutes into its coverage (they mentioned Tunsil’s slide before this but with no references to the video) when Notre Dame offensive lineman Ronnie Stanley was selected by the Ravens at No. 6. “When Stanley was selected, all of our antennas went up,” Markman said. “That was the first time we thought, ‘This was a potential slide.’ We had also been told from our reporters that it was him on the video—and we did not get a denial from his camp.”
The main group of voices on the set—host Chris Berman, and analysts Jon Gruden, Mel Kiper and Louis Riddick—started talking about Tunsil’s slide after Stanley was picked. Then, Schefter appeared on camera to give a brief background of Tunsil’s issues at Ole Miss before providing voice to a screenshot of Tunsil’s Twitter feed. During that report, Schefter did not say the person in the photo was Tunsil, which was cautious.
“A picture surfaced of somebody smoking,” Schefter said, adding, “right now teams are wondering whether that was Laremy Tunsil or not.”
ESPN then went to Kolber, who said she approached Tunsil and that Tunsil directed her to his agent, Creative Artists Agency’s Sexton. The agent told Kolber off camera that “all the teams know about it, they believe that the account was hacked and this may have been video that was quite old, going back to high school.” Kolber correctly called it a video as opposed to photo. What was not correct was reporting via Tunsil’s camp that the video went back to high school. It did not. It was later amended by Tunsil to being two years old.
Markman said at that time the production felt good it was Tunsil in the video but they were still being careful. They had never been told definitively it was him and there was always the possibility of doctored photos.
“We were fairly certain it was him and teams were saying that, but Adam left himself a little bit of a spot until we talked to Tunsil himself,” Markman said. “We were not totally as strong on that as we were later on.”
After Kolber’s report, Gruden went on an anti-Twitter rant for some reason and blamed the medium rather than people involved. “This whole social media scene makes me sick,” Gruden said. “If you are a young kid out there, put away your Twitter accounts if you want to be a pro football player. Somebody is going to hack your account, somebody is going to cause some problems.”
To his credit, Gruden was honest with viewers and said if he was a head coach in a draft room, he’d avoid Tunsil in the first round. Said Riddick: “The draft is an exercise in risk management and about availability and reliability.” Kiper actually had the most succinct explanation for viewers in explaining that if players like Stanley and Tunsil were this close, in a risk-averse league, NFL talent evaluators will always choose opting for safe. He said he could see the Ravens making an immediate audible once the video came out. Kiper also foreshadowed Michigan State tackle Jack Conklin going ahead of Tunsil. Kiper had a good draft.
At 9:25 p.m. ET, Schefter called Tunsil “the story of the draft so far.” He referenced Cowboys offensive lineman La’el Collins, who became radioactive just days before the 2015 NFL draft when his name was linked to a double homicide in Baton Rouge. Schefter then updated his earlier language to call the Tunsil images a video.
“Teams are concerned about that video that surfaced 10 minutes before the draft tonight that showed someone smoking. There at least two teams out there believe it was him,” Schefter said of Tunsil. “Other teams now ahead are wrestling with the decision about what to do with Laremy Tunsil, the man that has taken a fall from the No. 1 pick all the way down.”
At 9:35 p.m. ET, Kolber interviewed Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze. Markman said Kolber told the truck she could get Freeze and they told her to go for it. (This was before Tunsil’s Instagram was hacked, so Kolber obviously had no idea about alleged payments to Tunsil’s family from Ole Miss at the time.) “I do believe that it was a long time ago and how it came out today I don’t understand it or don’t know how,” Freeze said. “But he doesn’t deny it. He owned it, but certainly it was not recent.”
ESPN went to commercial before the Tunsil pick, which was a lost opportunity for foreshadowing. No one at ESPN predicted Miami would make the pick. At 9:43 p.m. ET, Tunsil was selected by the Dolphins with the No. 13 selection overall. Kiper analyzed what Tunsil could do for Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill and had an excellent spot about Tunsil’s long history of injuries juxtaposed by dominance when he was healthy. Riddick again talked about risk versus reward at this spot of the draft. Kiper narrated the video showing Tunsil run and pass blocking. Gruden then talked about Miami’s porous protection over the past couple of years.
Kolber got the second interview of Tunsil behind the NFL Network’s Deion Sanders—a big disadvantage for ESPN—and asked the same question twice (“Is the picture you?” and then “Is it you?”) that needed to be asked confirming whether he was in the video. Tunsil said it was him, though he said it before Kolber got the microphone directly in front of him so it was hard to hear him. Markman said even those in ESPN’s truck had trouble hearing it. Unfortunately, Berman didn’t follow up on Tunsil’s admission with Kolber, and soon enough was bellowing about the “Raaaaiders.” But the sequence was very good for ESPN, featuring cautious reporting. The one thing you wished was more empathy for Tunsil, who had his privacy invaded, no matter how you feel about marijuana.
“Normally when a player says his account was hacked you roll your eyes,” Carr said. “But in this case it was hard to see it any other way. We had to be certain it was him in the video before we said so. He did confirm that to Suzy when she interviewed him after the Dolphins picked him. We also had no way of knowing when the video was shot. We also had to make sure to convey that Tunsil had some other issues entering the draft (lawsuit filed by his former stepfather and NCAA suspension for illegal benefits) that could also be contributing to his slide.”
Markman acknowledged that there was not much talk about a player having his privacy violated but he did not believe the main set was place for that. “I don’t know if that is the place for us on the draft,” Markman said. “I recognize your point but when we are trying to evaluate a player and the choices a player makes and what kind of a young man is entering the NFL. While I respect that as a point that his privacy was violated, we are focused on what teams are going to think about this guy. In the moment, I think we were having the right conversation.”
The NFL Network also aired its report on Tunsil 55 minutes into its coverage when insider Ian Rapoport appeared on camera. Rapoport was out in front of ESPN. He said the person in the video was indeed Tunsil. NFL Network coordinating producer Charlie Yook said Rapoport was the one who gave his production the heads up on the story.
“Someone posted a video of him taking a bong hit with a gas mask to his Twitter account,” Rapoport said on the air. “It was quickly deleted. I am told his account was hacked so he didn’t send it out tweet himself. However, it is him. His agent has been calling teams trying to reassure them that is not who he is.”
The NFL Network then went immediately to an interview with Stanley, who had just been selected by the Ravens. Sanders, who had the best broadcasting night of his tough-to-watch career, asked whether he expected to go before Tunsil, which was a good question.
A couple of minutes later, when the Titans moved up to the No. 8 pick, Mike Mayock discussed how Tunsil or Vernon Hargreaves were the obvious choices at that selection. Tennessee ended up selecting Conklin.
Prior to the Giants pick at No. 10, the NFL Network reset the story and came back to Rapoport who said teams had dropped Tunsil, and that when he spoke to a high-ranking team official, the official said it was something NFL commissioner Roger Goodell “would care about.” The NFL Network’s main group discussed it again, a discussion that bordered on moralizing about Tunsil. “Some people might empathize with Laremy Tunsil because apparently somebody hijacked their account and put it out there,” Mayock said. “However, to me that is self-inflicted...At this point I have a ton of empathy for [injured linebacker Myles] Jack and none for Tunsil.”
At 9:34 p.m. ET, NFL Network reporter Aditi Kinkhabwala reported that the Ravens had taken Tunsil off their draft board after the video surfaced. Rapoport then said the video had changed Tunsil’s evaluation for multiple teams. He then reported the video could have been as potential as much as five years old (it proved to be shorter) and that he had passed all his drug tests at Ole Miss.
Prior to the Dolphins pick, the NFL Network also took a commercial, which meant there was no discussion of the possibility of Tunsil for Miami. After the Dolphins selected Tunsil, Mayock did something not often seen: He noted he might have jumped on Tunsil too quickly and harshly.
“However, I hope the kid learned a lesson,” Mayock said. “It will be a painful and expensive lesson. I hope he gets to Miami and fulfills the enormous potential he has.” Added Rich Eisen, echoing the thoughts of many: “Look, I saw the video. It does not look five years old. I’ll be very honest with you. I understand there will be some spin here said about this young man.”
The amazing thing—and I can’t believe I’m writing this—was that Sanders bailed out the NFL Network from coming off too preachy by asking a Tunsil a series of terrific questions. (Also credit Chris Weerts, the producer for that segment.) They included:
• “Let’s address the elephant in the room, what happened?” (This is where Tunsil admitted he was in the video.)
• “Did you know about it?
• “Was it your stepfather?”
• “What was the feeling you were experiencing in the back room as this was going on?”
• “How do you make this right?”
• “You gonna have an opportunity because you are propelled in the spotlight to turn this all around. What type of player, what type of man are the Dolphins getting?”
Sanders then mentioned Tunsil had passed all his drug tests at Ole Miss over the past couple of months and asked Tunsil if that was correct. Because it’s Sanders, he naturally ended the interview by referencing himself and gave a hug to the player. The network then went into its highlight package of Tunsil and a technical evaluation of him.
“The biggest thing for us was to make sure, ‘Is this real?’ and we had to make sure of that in this day and age,” said NFL Network coordinating producer Charlie Yook. “The questions we were asking in the truck were that we know this is out there, we know the slide is beginning, we know this is a massive storyline, but how can we confirm something? You don’t necessary have to be first, but you have to be right. This is someone’s livelihood you are talking about.”
Some additional NFL draft broadcasting thoughts:
• Near the end of the fifth round on Saturday, around 3 p.m. ET, the NFL Network brought Moritz Boehringer, the wide receiver prospect from Germany, onto its set, following an excellent NFL Films piece on his unlikely story. “My goal is to become the Dirk Nowitzki of football,” Boehringer said.
After Boehringer said that his favorite team was the Vikings and that they had looked at him hardest, Mayock said, “[Coach] Mike Zimmer, [GM] Rick Spielman, we have Mo-Bo sitting right here with us. He’s 6' 4", 230-something and he could not be a nicer guy, well spoken. You like length, you like toughness, he ran 4.43, let’s hear his name come off the clock.”
After a commercial break, the network then showed video of Mayock talking with Zimmer. Then came the pick: The Vikings selected Boehringer at No. 180 overall. The NFL Network had Boehringer on camera as soon he was selected and then went to Zimmer in the draft room, giving the high sign to the NFL.
“Is that my first NFL pick?” Mayock said. “I’m happy we got to share that moment with him.”
How did they get such a good sequence? Yook said that Mike Muriano, the NFL Network executive producer for studio and remote content, received a call from Henry Hodgson, an NFL.com producer who was shadowing Boehringer. Hodgson told Muriano that Boehringer was on his cell phone (and presumably talking to an NFL team). So Yook and Muriano changed course and took the broadcast from the NFL Network’s Culver City crew back to Chicago. A couple of minutes later, Boehringer was selected and Yook said the NFL Network staffers in the production truck let out screams. They put the announcement of the pick on the air and got celebration shots of Boehringer. “It was a dream sequence not only for him but for us and NFL International,” Yook said. “It is probably my favorite moment in the 10 years I have been doing it.”
• Berman screaming, “I’d go Bosa!” immediately prior to Bosa being picked by the Chargers at No. 3—as his colleagues stared in silence—came off as the opposite of picks not being tipped prior to Goodell reading the envelope. Wrote Pro Football Talk: “Chris Berman just wink-nod leaked the Joey Bosa pick before it was made.” On the NFL Network, the reaction was shock when Bosa was selected. Mayock thought that San Diego would select Stanley. Eisen came off the pick saying, “The first pick of the night that we did not know!” Bosa later told Sanders he figured he’d be in the green room “35 to 40 more minutes.” The NFL Network here clearly did not tip the pick. You can make your own decision whether ESPN’s host did. “It’s a fine line always on tipping picks and we have spent many meetings on the difference between what you know versus predicting,” Markman said. “I understand it is a subjective thing, but I looked at that more of an opinion rather than tipping that pick. But I respect opinions on both sides.”
• Far more insidious was Berman hawking for Chargers ownership to saddle San Diego taxpayers with hundreds of millions of debt to build a stadium.
• On the subject of ESPN and NFL Network agreeing not to tip picks online, it appeared that the edict was mostly followed, though I did see Schefter beat the broadcast tweeting that Paxton Lynch was being selected by the Denver Broncos.
• I received more feedback on Twitter this year than ever before from followers complaining about the number of commercials on ESPN and ESPN2 during Friday and Saturday’s coverage.
• The NFL Network did eventually air the Tunsil video (ESPN never did) immediately after the draft coverage during its post-draft show.
• When Gruden gets away from overhyping and league and coach protecting, he can be an interesting voice. “I know this—I would not have given up all of these draft picks in this draft to take an underclass quarterback that has a 14–22 record,” Gruden said of Jared Goff. “I’d be leery of that. But Jared Goff is an excellent player—assuming that what the Rams do—and we will have the opportunity to prove me wrong. I wish him well.”
• One of ESPN’s best moments over the three days was the discussion among Riddick, Kiper and Gruden on the Eziekel Elliott selection by Dallas at No. 4.
• Loved Eisen acknowledging that while everyone knew the No. 1 pick would be Goff, he asked, “What if was Wentz?” Mayock then gave viewers an interesting answer on that question.
• NFL Network analysts Charles Davis and Daniel Jeremiah went on the record saying Wentz would have been a better fit for the Rams than Goff.
• Said Yook on Sanders: “There are some people on our staff that really had their best years this year and Deion was one of them. You either love him or don’t but he was on top of it and invested in these draftees. He was prepped very well, and getting Tunsil out of the gate was good for Deion and us. He was on it.”
• Gruden is a charter member of the Lynch fan club: “I love the place he is going. [Denver coach] Gary Kubiak will work wonders with this kid. This guy has gone from string bean to beast…I hate to compare him to Cam Newton but I don’t know who else to compare him to.”
•Mayock and Kurt Warner were adamant that Lynch is not ready to start in the NFL.
• I appreciated Gruden acknowledging how he “tooted” the horn of Johnny Manziel throughout the whole first round two years ago –which he did.
• Yook said he was proud of how the NFL Network handled the selection of Notre Dame Jaylon Smith to the Cowboys with the No. 34 pick. He praised producers Chris Weerts, Steve Menzel, director Steve Beim, and assistant director Sara Ries for the artful coverage of capturing Smith’s emotions on the pick. “I think our team took a great approach to it, didn’t rush it, and the hug between Jaylon and his dad is a moment I’ll never forget,” Yook said.
• The NFL Network’s Draft Open, produced by Kevin Shaw, was very well done.
• ESPN’s player breakdowns were excellent. One example: Showing multiple examples of Wentz calling audibles at the line of scrimmage.
• Thought it was excellent that Eisen acknowledged that St. Louis fans were not celebrating the Rams pick. (Keep in mind he did it on an owned NFL property.)
• Gruden provided an interesting note of nuance we don’t often see. “You gotta remember these are young people, these are not finished products,” Gruden said “It’s not right to sit up here and judge all these guys. They can change. If they get in the right environment, they can flourish.”
THE NOISE REPORT
(SI.com examines some of the most notable sports media stories of the week)
1. ESPN drew 6.289 million viewers for its opening round coverage of the draft, down from 2015 (7,026,000 viewers) and significantly down from 2014, which included Manziel, and stands as the most-viewed (9,943,000 viewers) opening night in draft history. WatchESPN delivered an average minute audience of 198,000 for Round 1 of the NFL draft, a 37% gain year-over-year.
1a. Cleveland was the highest-rated market for ESPN Round 1 coverage, averaging a 13.3 rating. The rest of ESPN’s Top 10 cities for the opening round:
2. Columbus (13.1)
3. New Orleans (7.8)
4. Dayton (7.7)
5. Birmingham (7.5)
6. Jacksonville (7.2)
7. Philadelphia (7.0)
8. Minneapolis-St. Paul (6.9)
9. Buffalo (6.6).
10. Nashville (6.1).
Something to keep in mind: Sports Business Daily media reporter John Ourand reported that Boston ranked last (1.5) among the 56 metered markets for ESPN’s coverage of the opening round. It was also significantly down from last year (3.4). The Patriots did not have a first round pick and the Celtics were playing a playoff game that night. Losing Boston as a TV market had an impact – even slightly – on the ratings.
1c. The opening round of this year’s NFL Network coverage drew 2,039,000 viewers, up 12% from 1.82 million last year. That’s impressive given ESPN’s drop this year and points to people (at least in small numbers) shifting from ESPN to the NFL Network. Of course, WWE Smackdown beat the NFL Network (2.1 million to 2.039 million) so good to keep things in perspective. The NFL Network said it was up 23% on viewers for its Day 2 Draft coverage, the most-watched ever coverage for Day Two on the network.
1d. The NFL Network’s coverage on Day One beat the NBA playoffs (Atlanta-Boston on TNT: 1.944 million) and NHL playoffs (Pittsburgh-Washington in NBCSN: 1.520 million) head-to-head.
1e. ESPN said overall the draft delivered a 2.0 US household rating and 3,020,000 viewers on ESPN and ESPN2 over the three days, up slightly from last year’s 1.9 rating and 2,931,000 viewers. The network said it was the seventh most-viewed NFL draft on ESPN/ESPN2 since 1994.
1f. The top-10 metered markets for ESPN’s three days of television coverage were Cleveland (6.3), Columbus (6.2), New Orleans (4.0), Dayton (4.0), Jacksonville (3.7), Birmingham (3.5), Buffalo (3.4), Milwaukee (3.3), Philadelphia (3.2), and (tied) Nashville and Minneapolis-St. Paul (3.1).
1g. ESPN/ESPN2’s primetime coverage on Friday drew 2,260,000 viewers, up from last year and more than the NFL Network’s Day One coverage. ESPN’s Saturday coverage of the draft drew 1,705,000 viewers, the third most-viewed Saturday since the new format in 2010.
1h. SI’s Michael McCann tackled the legal questions surrounding Tunsil’s hacked Twitter.
1i. An update on Mortensen’s health here, from Tom Hoffarth.
1j. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay isn’t a journalist and given his role as a scouting analyst and occasional sideline reporter, you can understand why his ethos might be more favorable to coaches – he needs the access. But he also works for the nation’s largest sports media company –which employs hundreds of journalists – so it was frustrating to see how quickly he chastised Tunsil for addressing the media (and doing so fairly honestly) Thursday night. “The one thing Tunsil did today that was his fault, he should never have done this answering those questions, and then go sell out the coaching staff and Ole Miss,” McShay said on ESPN. “He’s going to have to mature real quickly or this league is going to eat him up”
McShay was criticized in a number of places for those comments including by some ESPN colleagues. He was also somewhat defended, including a piece here where I was ranked as a villain just below the NCAA, Tunsil’s hacker, and Stalin.
To his credit, McShay appeared on the “Russillo and Kanell” show on ESPN Radio the next day and offered more context on his thoughts. He had much more time here to talk and it’s worth noting for people like me who write about this stuff that live television is never easy given the tightrope you walk in limited time. I’ll never be fully comfortable with sports media people advocating subjects not to talk, but I appreciate his point and we can disagree.
2. From a reliable television source: Fox Sports will pay commentator Skip Bayless in the neighborhood of $5.5 million per year for four years, plus a $4 million signing bonus. He is expected to front his own show at FS1.
2a. Her formal title at ESPN is executive vice president, global strategy and original content, but the shorthand on Marie Donoghue is that she is one of the most powerful behind the scenes figures at ESPN and a member of ESPN president John Skipper’s inner circle. Donoghue is top business executive for FiveThirtyEight, ESPN Films, as well as ESPN’s upcoming site on sports and race, The Undefeated (which launches May 17). She also has a hand in some of ESPN’s afternoon block of programming, and notably was the top business executive in charge of Grantland, including when ESPN folded the site. Last Wednesday, I conducted an interview with her on The Undefeated, FiveThirtyEight and her role in Grantland being shuttered.
2b. The New York Daily News reported on Sunday that ESPN NFL analyst Trent Dilfer is likely done at ESPN. I’ve been told by reliable ESPN sources that Dilfer still remains at ESPN but the direction, as the Daily News reported, will likely head elsewhere. If and when that happens, it’s a remarkable change of direction given Dilfer was once considered the front-runner to replace Gruden should he opt back into coaching. Dilfer served as the analyst for the late game of the Monday Night Football opening doubleheader for the past couple of years. The recently hired Matthew Hasselbeck will be traveling to the Monday Night Football site so he will take over some of Dilfer’s responsibilities. Said ESPN: "We are in the process of determining our NFL assignments for this fall.”
2c. Robert Smith, the former ESPN analyst, as well as a former Ohio State and NFL running back, has been hired by Fox Sports and the Big Ten Network to work as a college football studio analyst this fall. Smith will join host Rob Stone and analysts Dave Wannstedt and Matt Leinart for pregame, halftime and post-game coverage on the Fox and FS1 broadcasts. He will also appear on BTN studio shows throughout the week, as well as Fox Sports Radio on Sundays.
3. Episode No. 53 of the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast with Richard Deitsch features ESPN MLB analyst Jessica Mendoza, who works on Sunday Night Baseball with Dan Shulman and Aaron Boone.
On this episode, Mendoza goes in-depth on her preparation for games each week, which starts more than a week in advance. Mendoza also discusses her thoughts on criticism and the influx of opinions she receives on social media about her work, whether she views her pioneering role as a responsibility, how she balances raising two young kids with a job heavy on travel, her relationship with Curt Schilling and how the two are linked incorrectly, why she’s trying to convince Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw to let her stand in the batters box against him, her relationship with fellow broadcasters Shulman and Boone, the future of softball in the Olympics, her journey at ESPN and much more.
A reminder: you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher, and you can view all of SI’s podcasts here. If you have any feedback, questions or suggestions, please comment here or tweet at Deitsch.
4. Non sports pieces of note:
• The Economist obit on Prince is brilliant.
• The New York Times: The Day Prince’s Guitar Wept the Loudest.
• Via The New Yorker: In Florida prisons, mentally ill inmates have been tortured, driven to suicide, and killed by guards.
• Remarkable insight into Alzheimer’s, from New York Times writer N.R. Kleinfield.
• Here’s Kleinfield’s reflections on reporting the story.
• Beautiful essay on what Prince meant to this Charlotte writer.
• Writes former CNN anchor Campbell Brown: Why I blame TV for Trump.
• A Minneapolis writer remembers his relationship with a lost star.
• From GQ: How a Son Survived Being Injected with HIV by His Father.
• On TV’s dwindling middle class, by NYT’s Wesley Morris.
• From NPR’s David Folkenflick: Las Vegas columnist quits when told he can't write about new boss.
• From NYT: Better Aging Through Practice, Practice, Practice.
Sports pieces of note:
• From New York Times sports columnist Michael Powell: “Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless, the Moe and Larry of ESPN, engaged in a one-plus-one-equals-five exercise this week. “I’m not going to accuuuse you of using performance-enhancing supplements, drugs,” Smith said of [Jake] Arrieta, who was not on that show. “But you shouldn’t just be laughing at those who are looking at you and saying, 'Excuse me, what the hell is going on here?'” Bayless nodded gravely. “I have no sympathy for him.”
• From Eric Koreen: The newspaper that didn’t love me back.
• Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy, for The Players Tribune, on combating sexual assault.
• From The Guardian: Hillsborough disaster: deadly mistakes and lies that lasted decades.
•The MMQB’s Emily Kaplan followed Tunsil around at the draft.
• Sports PR executive Joe Favorito on getting released by the Knicks 10 years ago.
• From The Guardian: Justice, finally: a Hillsborough survivor’s story.
• Should teenagers be fighting adults? They do in the OHL, from The Globe and Mail of Canada.
• Awful Announcing’s Andrea Hangst asked, “What message is Fox Sports sending women in sports media?”
• Buffalo News columnist Bucky Gleason on how the Braves came to Buffalo – and why they left.
• From The Kansas City Star writer Sam Mellinger: The Chiefs, who brag about their character, draft a man who allegedly beat up his pregnant girlfriend.
• The New York Times profiled the #bucciovertimechallenge.
5. Episode No. 54 of the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast features Sports Business Daily media reporter John Ourand for an hour of sports media talk. On this episode, Ourand and Deitsch discuss Mike Tirico leaving ESPN for NBC Sports, Skip Bayless departing ESPN for FS1, whether ESPN is experiencing a real talent drain or whether that is a false narrative, FS1’s strategy to build a morning block around loud opinionists, the upcoming HBO show featuring Bill Simmons and whether “The Ringer” will resonate in the market, how women in the sports media are treated on social media, the Big Ten television and digital rights deals, Sean McDonough and other replacements for Tirico at ESPN, the future of Katie Nolan, the strategy of CBS Sports’ cable division, the future of the Pac 12 network, working with the PR departments of sports television networks and much more.
5a. The Golf Channel said it had its most-watched April in the 21-year history of the network, averaging 137,000 viewers per day.
5b. The Orange County Register reported that HBO drew 1.32 million viewers last Saturday for Gennady Golovkin’s win over Dominic Wade, HBO’s most watched boxing event of the year.
5c. Curt Schilling told Newsday’s Neil Best that he believed ESPN management singled him out because he was a conservative.
5d. The legendary Texas sports writer Blackie Sherrod passed away at 96.
5e. The SI Media podcast recently crossed the 1-million download mark. Thank you very much for your interest.